The Body Is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love by Sonya Renee Taylor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Everyone who has a body should read this book. If you think you know what it is all about, you probably don’t.
I thought I knew. I have followed TBINAA on social media for years, so yeah, I know. But not really. This book had more depth and breadth than I anticipated. I bought the book on audible, but by Chapter 2 I knew that it wouldn’t be enough. I purchased the print book and started marking it up. The audiobook is fantastic, don’t get me wrong. Sonya’s voice is deep and clear and powerful. She also leaves in some of her “flubs.” A few times she repeats sentences and at one point she gives a little “oh” when she realizes she misspoke. At first, I thought this was poor editing, but then I realized it was a conscious choice. It is a statement on how we are not perfect nor are we meant to be. It helps me believe Sonya when she says that she too suffers from days where she struggles to find the body love, it is believable.
My copy, with all of my post-it bookmarks
I’ve read the book, but I’m not finished with it. I figured out pretty early on that this wasn’t going to be a one-and-done read for me. I will need to read and re-read it many times. I will need to chew through the passages slowly and with reflection. I will need to use the inquiry questions as a workbook. I can’t remember a book that has impacted me this strongly in a really long time.
This is not a self-help book in the way typically self-help books work. It is more like a three-way conversation between you, your body, and Sonya, who is acting as some sort of marriage counselor, helping you and your body remember what you loved about each other in the first place.
If this book is on your “to read” list, move it to the top of the list. If it isn’t on your list, well, what are you waiting for?
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I spent the weekend rethinking what I’m trying to do. I didn’t walk I didn’t write. I just thought. (And got a foot massage which helped both the chronic pain and the thinking.)
I examined the issues I thought I was addressing:
- Always tired
- Chronic pain
- Feeling old
- Feeling out of control
- Feeling loss of self to outside pressures (work, school, family, relationships)
Then I thought about my motivation:
- Acceptance by others
- Peace of mind (sanity??)
To be honest, I’m not convinced I’m on the right track. Trying to adhere to a schedule (30min 30days) was great when I was successful but left me feeling like a failure when I (a) failed to make the minimum requirement or (b) felt pain or suffered in recovery. Even writing an article each day and creating a meme is wonderful and insightful, but between work, school, and family I’m not sure it is a realistic expectation. I actually felt bad missing a day and that caused me to miss another. Ugh!!
This is not to say I’m giving up. Getting up and moving around was great. How do I do it with semi-consistency and without undo pressure? Writing this blog again has been so helpful. How do I arrange time for it without it becoming a drain? My type A personality usually only employs two setting: Full-on-high and off. How do I cultivate a lower setting?
So, I’m thinking and considering. I’m looking for resource outside myself. I’m hoping for inspiration. I’m planning more massages, more walks on the beach, more sleep. I’m trying to change my perspective.
I just can’t tonight.
I just can’t.
I’ll try again tomorrow.
But not if I feel like this.
Pain shooting from my toes and up my legs. The small of my back cranking. Every bone. Every muscle. Did you know that was a muscle? It is and it hurts.
I walked 7,000 steps in heels. I walked 2,000 steps with a backpack and suitcase.
Nearly 12,000 steps in all
So not worth the pain.
This week has been crazy, but I got a brief window today to do something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I headed to the beach to do my 30 min walk on the boardwalk.
I used the time to think about what I wanted and where I think I’m going. I’m reading a helpful book (more about that later) but one thing I realized is that I’m really mad at my body. When I got hurt a year and a half ago, and had to drop out of the marathon, it felt like a betrayal. My body betrayed me.
I’ve been punishing my body ever since. I’ve been depressed, angry, and pissed off. I see other bodies doing stuff and I feel jealous. I still haven’t forgiven my body for letting me down.
They say that knowing what’s wrong is half the battle. So I guess that means I still have half the battle left.
I may have written about this before, but I believe in the power of “as if.” I believe in it so much that I’ve taught my child to use its power. She is even better at it than I.
Not confident? Just act as if you were confident and it’s almost as good.
Not happy? Act as if you were happy. Smile and laugh and tell jokes. No one can tell you aren’t happy. Maybe not even you.
Don’t know what you are doing? Just answer as if you are sure of yourself. Others will believe in you, follow your lead, and soon you will be sure.
Right now I’m not body positive at all. I’m feeling old and sore and worn down (especially last night). But I post as if I’m sure of what I’m doing and that I know it will turn out right. If I keep saying it, not only will you believe, but hopefully I will too.
Monday’s are rough for me. My day starts at 4:15 am and I’m out the door by 5. I get home after 10 pm. Yesterday, between work, grad school, and 120 miles of driving I somehow managed to solve 3 major family crises and still get my walk in. I really pushed it.
Tuesday are usually easier but I still had to get up at 4:15 this morning and when I got home at 6 pm I didn’t go for a walk. And I didn’t go before dinner. And I didn’t go after dinner. And now it is 10 pm and technically I could go. There is time… and it isn’t rainy out…
But I just don’t think I can make myself do it. In fact, I just made a deal with myself that if I wrote this post and admitted that I was skipping for no good reason, then I could skip and go to bed.
And as I type I think, but shouldn’t I just push through it? Force myself? Won’t I feel better after?
But I don’t think I will feel better. I actually think pushing myself yesterday is why I feel worse today. Every muscle hurts. Every part of me aches. And I’m sooooo tired. And if I push too hard, and some point I will break.
I don’t think I’m admitting defeat. I’m changing the parameters to give me a chance to succeed. I’m resting so that tomorrow I can give it another shot. I don’t even have to wake until 5:15 so woohoo!
And right now I’m going to get some sleep. I’ll figure out the rest later.
I was feeling pretty proud of myself walking out of the gym last night when I had a strange, unfinished thought: What happens when I reach my goal?
I don’t mean my immediate goal of 30 min of walking or some type of exercise for 30 days in a row. I’m already seeing some preliminary changes. My mood is better, I make it to the end of the workout without feeling like I’m going to die. I’ve consistently figured out how to get my 30 min, despite school, work, health, kids, and other unexpected dramas. I’m even considering what my step-up goal might be for next month.
No, I’m talking about the long-term goal. What will I look like/be like when I’ve spent 365 days trying to get healthier physically and mentally? How will I measure success? I can’t weigh it on a scale or look for it in inches? I can’t touch it or take a pic of it? All my guideposts are inappropriate.
So here is my first draft of what I think my success will look like (I reserve the right to edit these, cross them out, and completely delete this post if necessary):
- I still think my goal of a healthier happier me is important.
- I still think my goal of a healthier happier me has nothing to do with my weight, my size, my age, or my ability.
- I still make me a priority for some portion of the day, every day.
- I am able to love my body “as is”
- I am able to forgive myself when I don’t meet any of the above expectations
- I continue to try to learn, to do better, to grow
For someone who likes counting, crossing things off lists, and coming up with data, these goals seem pretty “wishy-washy.” And really super hard to achieve. And maybe a little bit worth it.
Got any ideas to add?
If you are looking for where I get my inspirational quotes, don’t bother. In the past I scoured the Internet looking for the perfect graphic, but I decided this time I would make my own. All the backgrounds are photos or drawings I’ve made. Some of the quotes are appropriated, but most are original.
I’m sure there are other people who have better photos, cleverer quotes, etc. It’s just that if one of my goals is to get to my own truth, then the memes ought to be authentic as well.
One unexpected benefit is that as I go through my day I find myself looking for photo opportunities and thinking about the things I hear and read. Would that make a good post? Would that make an interesting meme? It’s made me more mindful of place and time and hopefully I’ll improve as I go along.
This post marks 7 days in a row that I’ve posted. I admit I’m a bit rusty. Also it feels weird to be sharing my inner thoughts again. Luckily no one is reading this blog (except my mom) after being dormant for so long.
Today I got my walk in, but barely (10 days down; 20 to go). I had exactly 30 min between finishing work and the leaving for the movies. BF wasn’t too happy, but he got over it.
It was dark and drizzly and I didn’t have time to go to the gym. I strapped a light onto my knit hat and held a flashlight when oncoming cars would come. I’m supposed to avoid blacktop because it’s harsher on the heel pain, but sometimes you just have to make do.
It felt like the old days, before I ran a half marathon, before the chronic pain, when I was just trying to hit a million steps and would walk in all kinds of weather just to get those extra steps in. Before I had “friends” on my Fitbit app and I was the only person I knew who had a Fitbit. Before I turned 50, when I thought I’d never be a runner, or athletic, or fit. When all I wanted to do was be able to walk without huffing and puffing.
It was also a time when I obsessed about what I was eating, and how much, and when. And I was drinking coffee and diet soda (ok I had diet soda today, but just because we were out to dinner and there weren’t a lot of options. It really is a rare thing) and I was weighing myself obsessively.
This time I’m being really strict. Not only is there a no-scale rule and a no writing down everything you eat rule, but there is a don’t obsess about your food choices rule and a eat when you are hungry rule. There is also a don’t feel bad about what you ate rule. Sometimes I forget the rules a bit and have to remind myself… gently remind myself… kindly remind myself that the rules are there to protect me (from me). Then I pick myself up, dust myself off, and send me back into the world.
It feels pretty good.
Yesterday I almost didn’t get my 30 min walk in. The day got away from me so that the earliest I could get to it was 10 pm. It was rainy and icky out. I was really tired. But it’s only 30 min and I already brought my sneakers, I told myself.
Then I realized I had forgotten to pack up the most important thing: I carry a water bottle to the gym that has my Garmin watch, Bluetooth headphones, a sweat towel, and a scruncii to hold my glasses on. Could I really walk without these?
Yes, I thought:
- Listen to the rhythm of your breathing
- Enjoy the sweat as proof of your effort
- Repurpose your empty coffee thermos from this morning as a water bottle
- Rely on the treadmill to record your efforts
- Hold your head high so your glasses don’t fall off
It was a great moment in positive self talk. I found reasons to succeed instead of reasons to fail. I kept thinking if you let these little things defeat you now, how will you survive the big things?
On my way to the gym, with less than an hour before closing, my glasses broke. One of the temples (arms) fell off and into the abyss of my dark car. To keep driving (I am completely blind without my glasses) I had to hold them with one hand and drive with the other. I had no time to go home for a spare pair and still get my walk in.
Well, that’s it, I thought. I can’t see so I can’t walk. Just give up. This is a legit reason. More legit than no headphones and no water bottle.
But then I thought, Fuck It.
I want to get my walk in. Let’s see (hehe get it) what happens.
So I went to the gym and held my glasses with one hand to find the changing room and then dressed blind. Then I held my glasses to find the treadmill and to see which buttons to press. Once I got a good rhythm going I put the glasses into the empty cup holder (yeah, I left the coffee cup in the car after all that) and walked blind. I didn’t fall. I didn’t fail. I didn’t give up.
All in all it was a pretty great day.